Parental Leave: 9 Things to Consider from Someone Who Did It

It has been five and a half months since my daughter was born and two months since I returned from Parental Leave. Now that I am back in full swing, I can safely say that there were no repercussions to taking time off. My Leadership supported me every step of the way.

I was encouraged by the positive feedback I received from my previous blog post why I decided to take Parental Leave, so I want to share 9 things others should consider when thinking of taking Parental Leave. I hope these tips will be useful to anyone contemplating taking time off to welcome a new family member.

On the Decision:

1. What Motivates You to Work

For me, first and foremost, I work for my family — my wife and my children. How could I not take time off to be with them?!

2. Don’t Overthink It

I was pleasantly surprised when I spoke to my managers and they all supported me. Many shared their personal stories of when their children were born and a longer-term perspective on why they supported my decision. There was no need to worry about how they were going to respond. Accenture is a people business and it is great to see how people’s needs come first.

3. Don’t Get Disappointed

There were a handful of individuals who questioned why I would take off the full 8 weeks. Just remember that they are probably coming from a good place and only looking out for your well-being. Your Leave benefit is no different than your PTO benefit — and it’s your decision to make. If you feel it is right for you, do it.

On the Process:

4. Read and Understand Policy Details

I read the fine print to know Accenture’s policy and how the process works. Some companies allow you to break up the time into chunks and some require you to take it all at once. Some companies define primary and secondary caregivers, and have different policies for each. Whether you are pleasantly surprised by your company’s policy or find out information causing you to rethink the length of your Leave… it is better to know the details than to make assumptions.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

There were some areas in the Leave policy that were not clear to me so I raised these questions with my HR and Leave of Absence points of contact. It’s better to be fully informed than guess, or worse miss out on a benefit because you were too afraid to ask.

6. Create Your Backup Plan

When I told my managers, I had a clear plan of what I was working on and how my projects would be affected during my Leave, as well as who were the points of contact supporting me during my Leave. Thinking ahead and communicating made me feel comfortable that nothing would get lost.

On Time Off:

7. Get into the Habit of Unplugging

During Parental Leave, you will have a lot less screen time and a lot more family time — so you should prepare accordingly. I had a head start as an observant Jew. For my entire life, I have kept the Sabbath which means that I disconnect from electronics and technology every week from sunset on Friday until sundown on Saturday. This is something that I take for granted. Taking 25 hours away from the larger world, technology, and electronics likely sounds drastic, but it has helped me keep balance in my life. Check out the National Day of Unplugging to find resources about unplugging from work/technology and learn from successful business leaders who also unplug.

8. Set Boundaries

In addition to having an out of office set with instructions for people who needed to reach me, I opted to check email every morning and night, but that is not for everyone. There were a handful of times I got emails saying: “I know you are on Leave but do you have any bandwidth.” It was my goal to keep to the guidelines I outlined for myself and I advised those individuals who was the best person to help. Just remember that this is your time off, so dictate the rules for yourself and figure out what works best for you.

9. Enjoy the Time off

You may not have this opportunity again, so don’t miss the precious moments in your life, especially when your family is growing.

On a personal note, my Parental Leave gave my wife and me the ability to perform a status check on the division of labor in our household, and gave me the opportunity to get even more involved in our children’s lives. This is something that I know will remain permanent for the rest of our lives.

#InclusionStartsWithI

Accenture recently released a viral video called “Inclusion Starts With I”. I recommend you take 3 minutes to watch the video. Similar to the video, I pledge to learn about my peers’ struggles and try to see things from their perspectives so that I can better understand their experiences.

In the spirit of encouraging others to take advantage of their Parental Leave benefit, what tips would you recommend?

Feel free to connect with me if you have any questions and I encourage you to find proactive ways to support your colleagues who are thinking of taking any type of Leave.

Dan Eckstein is a Senior Manager at Accenture and the Lead of Accenture’s Interfaith Employee Resource Group in the NY Metro area.

Originally posted on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/parental-leave-9-things-consider-from-someone-who-did-dan-eckstein